We Should All Live More Like Ándre Leon Talley
On beauty and the pursuit of it
On his ability to identify beauty alone, André Leon Talley was a genius. Just watch any of his interviews. Beyond the name-dropping and impeccable ensemble, André could editorialize anything on the spot with effortless flair. His encyclopedic knowledge of fashion, history, and art led Anna Wintour to tether herself to him, learning everyday as much as he learned from her.
It’s a New Year, and I’m thinking a lot about what someone like André brings into a space. André, the dictionary definition of a bon vivant, was a trusted colleague to his generation’s luminaries because every gathering was enriched by his participation.
Diana Vreeland, Karl Lagerfeld, Andy Warhol, Tom Ford, Dapper Dan, Valentino, Manolo Blahnik, Whoopi Goldberg, the Obamas — I’m not sure why I even tried to list them because his circle is so robust, stretching decades. Though André brought much to his friendships, when people asked him about his affiliations he often paraphrased Judge Judy: “They don’t keep me here for my looks, they keep me for my knowledge!”
He’s underselling himself, of course, because beyond knowledge André exuded so much energy, laughter, charisma, kindness, and opulence everywhere he went. But beyond his infectious energy and magnetic persona, he was also tender and familial (he reportedly visited Diana Vreeland in her final bed-ridden weeks, reading books out loud by her bedside).
Despite the many people in the industry who needlessly tore him down, called him names, made flagrantly racist comments, undervalued him over and over, he looked past their insecurities and chose joy instead. He shaped culture by sheer force of presence. But the fact that he knew his mind alone would make him necessary — damn, I’ll never stop thinking about it.
Andre was at the epicenter of culture in New York from the second he set foot in it. He danced at Studio 54 every night, worked as a sassy front desk girl at The Factory, made himself the king of Paris too. Each day he left his house with a determination to follow the things and people he loved — fashion, art, literature, nightlife — as something of a guiding light. Wherever culture was, André was.
In one of his interviews, André talks about how he never *tried* to have a career of any kind, he simply chased what he loved. Though André was undeniably ambitious, carving a dream role in the industry for himself, he was, first and foremost, himself. And being himself was enough to lead him to the greatness he’s now known for. And where he was egregious underpaid and overlooked, I don’t doubt that he would have done it for even less. Not because he doesn’t respect himself, but because he knew beauty was worth more than money.
I sold my office desk yesterday. It’ll be replaced with the most beautiful dinner table I’ll ever own, a symbolic gesture that might motivate me to get my ass away from the inbox and out into the world, the actual stuff of life. I waste so much time *trying* to be someone, *trying* to shape my own trajectory — but all that planning and not enough doing, imo. I don’t want to look back on my 30s and see myself sitting at a desk most days a week, trying to justify my own worth. I want to think less about “content,” spend less time with my phone. 2022 is about reading books, putting together looks, going on adventures, riding around in cars with boys, finding bodies of water, blasting Jazmine Sullivan out the window. I want to get more piercings, more tattoos, go to nude beaches, do drugs, throw parties, follow around the people that inspire me, jetset, get into some good trouble.
I guess what I’m getting at is that this year I want to be more like André. He knew there was no greater wealth than the wealth of life, that luxury is in your mind, so why not make it for ourselves, whatever it means to us?
some things that brought me joy this week
1. The loss of André is so immeasurable and we’ll be living in his influence for decades to come. I loved reading the homages paid to him and the possibility models he created. Tre’vell’s is particularly beautiful. Gabriella’s, Jeremy too! Grateful for the ways we archive cultural memory when we lose our titans.
2. I also bought cycle 14 of America’s Next Top Model and though it was a splurge, I regret nothing. I’ve never watched ANTM before (I know, I know) and this was Andre’s first season. The cast is so unhinged I can’t imagine a better place to start my journey (to be discussed on an upcoming ep of LAV).
3. I’ve been devouring The Will to Change — a book I packed somewhat mindlessly on my last trip to NYC just a few days before bell hooks passed. This was a rec from my friend Phil and I didn’t know how badly I needed to hear her talk about compassion and how we frame conversations when we talk about the problem of men and masculinity.
4. Add me on Goodreads, girls. I used to be such an avid reader, but ever since entering the workforce, I’ve made so much less time for books. Getting back on the train this year, and I do miss this busted platform. I haven’t used it in 8 years, but it appears they’ve preserved the web design from then. Reminds me of the LiveJournal years, in a good way.
5. Adore this silk set Montserrat sent me. A touch overpriced if I’m being honest for something that isn’t actual silk, but it is durable, comfy, and doesn’t feel cheap at all. I wear it inside, but stunty enough to grab a coffee in.
6. As big as my goals are for the year, I’m also cool just chillin. Annika’s words this month empowered me to discard personal projects I’d been pressuring myself to get to despite how much I love NY resolutions. There is nothing more satiating than crossing something off a list that you *decided against* and *never intend* to do.
“This perfect version of myself? They don’t exist. If anything, they’re only a projection of my ego, and choosing to hold onto it is a permanent contract forever breaking my own heart. I’ve found the more irritating and difficult truth to hold is that who I am currently is not a dress rehearsal for the day the real me struts onto the stage. In this moment, right now, I am more me than I will ever be.”
One of the bigger lessons I learned last year is that expectations are just premeditated resentments. We talked about it on the pod this week, but I am the ultimate manufacturer of my own disappointment, in large part because I can’t quite shake the habit of the workforce. My brain is a problem-solving mechanism that’s difficult to shut off which usually means productivity addictions and a whole lot of “manifesting.”
7. Like every other lesbian on Twitter, I did binge Yellowjackets and love every second. Well, the finale was not what we wanted it to be, but that didn’t detract from the thrilling and completely original ride we were on following a group of teen girls stranded in the Ontarian wilderness following a plane crash. Send me your conspiracy theories?
8. Ok, the Tata resurfacing mask is no joke. They sent me a little brush to apply it, and the luxurious quality of applying a mask w a brush — why did I do it any other way??
9. I was on this week’s episode of Las Culturistas talking about all the above and more — Matt & Bow are two of my favorite voices in culture right now, and I’m so glad we finally got to ki after trying to make it happen since being pod network sisters ages ago.
10. Idk now I’ve never heard it, but the song Little Bird by Annie Lennox is my anthem for 2022. Have had it in the car nonstop, and this emo bop has the unc-iest outro and I wish it was ten more minutes long.
this week’s action
Indiana legislators are proposing a ban to all trans kids from participating in school sports, part of an ongoing attack of gender-based violence seeping through our court systems across the country this year. You can take action and read more about it there.